Getting fit and lean requires more than having a great training program. After all, substantial weight loss and great abs are made in the kitchen. But even if you train hard and eat healthy, if you don’t have the right mindset, your progress will be at risk. Building a healthy and strong body isn’t a short-term project that you can complete and then return to your old ways – it’s more of a dedication to living, eating and thinking healthy in the long term.
When it comes to fad diets and suspicious-sounding supplements, the majority of the victims to their incredible claims are women. Actually, it seems that every third woman doesn’t have the much needed patience and knowledge to sculpt her dream body and her efforts go to waste as the boomerang effect of inadequate dieting kicks in.
So let’s just tell the truth: significant weight loss and firm muscles are the result of hard work in the gym, hard work in the kitchen, and plenty of willpower and self-discipline. The bad news is that there’s no way to get around those things, but the good news is that when equipped with the right science-backed methods, you can accomplish a lot more with the same amount of effort.
Let’s get started.
Stop focusing on fat loss
Here’s the thing: many behavioral studies have shown that when you focus solely on burning fat and design your whole program around that goal, you’re more likely to fail. Illogical as it may sound, it’s actually the truth. When all you care about is the calories, you end up consuming more of them. How does this happen?
First of all, focusing only on restrictions is just too stressful. Second, it involves a ‘push’ motivation, meaning that you’re actively pushing yourself away from a source of discomfort or anxiety (the image of you being overweight forever), which can be a very powerful motivation, but it’s nowhere near as powerful as its counterpart, the ‘pull’ motivation, which involves tapping your desire to achieve something really worthwhile, lasting and meaningful.
So when you gear your workout towards fat loss, you’re not giving yourself the opportunity to enjoy that activity and give it some real depth and importance, and this often results with rewarding yourself for your hard efforts with food.
Exercise becomes just this annoying thing you have to endlessly perform in order to prevent putting on fat, which means that your motivation will inevitably diminish. But if you try to focus on working out for the goal of building strength and muscle, you can transform your gym hours into a more enjoyable experience and greatly increase your overall motivation, which in turn will certainly yield better results.
Research has shown that weight training leads to greater fat loss, improved body composition and of course, stronger, shapelier figure. In addition, strength training is the best way to boost your production of fat-burning hormones and enhance your metabolism, thereby triggering optimal fat burning during and after the workout!
Don’t starve yourself
Do your friends tell you that you have to basically starve yourself in order to lose weight? Sure, creating a calorie deficit is an important part of weight loss, and there are many ways to lose weight fast. But this approach has never resulted with any long-lasting changes and it will only make you hungry and unhappy, until you can’t take it anymore and end up overeating. We can assure you that eating as less as you can won’t give you the results you desire.
On the contrary, it will only slow down your metabolic rate and cause your body to burn fewer calories as an attempt to preserve its precious fuel sources. So, the real trick is in reducing your appetite and creating a slight caloric deficit and improving your metabolism at the same time. How? It’s very simple actually – all you need to do is to make a few dietary adjustments by including more filling, nutrient-dense unprocessed foods in your diet and drink more water.
Build your diet around high quality sources of protein such as lean meats, fish and eggs, eat more fresh veggies and fruits that provide plenty of belly-filling fiber with every meal and consume an adequate amount of healthy fats on a daily basis. There are plenty of weight loss-friendly foods that you can choose to keep you satisfied without adding any inches around your waist.
Also, keep in mind that the exact number of calories you need to consume depends heavily on your body composition, the type and amount of physical activity. However, by obsessively counting calories you will only create additional anxiety and elevate the production of stress hormones in your body, resulting with greater fat storage instead of losing more weight.
Stress hormones are directly linked to the process of storing fat, particularly around the waist, and are also partially responsible for junk food cravings. So instead of emphasizing the number of calories, aim to eat a healthier, low-carb, high-protein diet that will keep hunger away and allow your body to burn fat more efficiently. Multiple studies have shown that increasing protein intake will increase your metabolism and maintain your muscle mass. Additionally, your body naturally burns more calories in the process of breaking down protein than when breaking down either fats or carbs.
Another thing you can do is to include periods of fasting in your eating pattern. In general, it takes about 6-8 hours for the body to metabolize all glycogen stores and then shift to burning fat. This means that if you are replenishing your glycogen stores by eating throughout the day, your body is less likely to use your fat stores as fuel. So instead of eating anytime you feel like it, eat all of your food for the day within a 10-12 period of time and fast for the rest of the day.
This way, your body will be forced to burn fat during the time you are not eating. This eating pattern, called intermittent fasting, has given miraculous results for many people, but only when the fasting periods don’t last longer than 16 hours. If you fast for longer than that, the balance of cortisol and reproductive hormones can get disrupted and your efforts will eventually backfire. But if you do it right, short periods of fasting can really enhance your fat loss by sparking up your metabolism and get you closer to the lean body of your dreams.
More fats, less carbs
Remember, dietary fat is not your enemy. When you replace dietary fat with more carbs, as most women tend to do, your blood sugar and insulin levels increase and harm your body’s fat burning ability. On top of that, since your body requires fat in order to manufacture a long list of crucial hormones (as well as absorb vitamins and minerals), not consuming enough fat can lead to hormonal imbalances with far-reaching negative consequences.
To avoid this, make sure that each one of your meals consists of a protein source, a fat source and some low-carb vegetables. Designing your meals in this fashion will provide you with all the essential nutrients your body needs to function properly, drastically lower your insulin levels and help you keep a low calorie count. Good sources of fat include olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, fish and butter.
It’s best to use coconut oil when cooking, because it contains healthy fats that are more filling and can slightly boost your metabolism. However, be careful to avoid processed fats like vegetable oils and foods that contain harmful trans-fats.
In addition, try cutting foods that contain lots of carbs in favor of fruits and vegetables, or at least replace them with healthier alternatives. Stay away from the white bread, sugary cereals, sodas and processed desserts – the more of these foods you eat, the more fat your body will store, thanks to the elevated levels of insulin.
But the carbs found in vegetables and whole grains, which are also packed with fiber, will slow down digestion and cause a slower release of energy, keeping you feeling fuller for longer without causing any blood sugar spikes. With a low-carb diet, you get to eat amazing, tasty food and lose weight pretty much effortlessly at the same time – would you have it any other way?
Improve estrogen metabolism
Improving your estrogen metabolism is one of the best ways to improve your overall health and achieve optimal body composition. When in balance with other hormones, estrogen ensures good health, but too much of it can result with a greater risk of cancer, infertility, mood disorders and weight problems.
For women, having the right amount of estrogen supports weight loss efforts because it decreases fat storage on a cellular level.
On the other hand, some scientific evidence hints that higher levels of estrogen lead to an increased activity of the alpha-adrenergic receptors in the lower part of the body, which slow fat release and are the reason why many women have a pear shape fat distribution.
Estrogen dominance also makes women store more fat in the subcutaneous areas (just under the skin). Nowadays, many women have difficulty getting rid of excess estrogen, because we’re surrounded with foods and products that are loaded with chemical estrogens which are man-made compounds that mimic estrogen once they get inside the body.
Chemical estrogens are guilty of causing disease and increasing obesity rates all around the world, and they can be found in plant pesticides, animal growth hormones, cleaning products, personal care products and plastic bottles.
In addition, poor estrogen metabolism is also caused by a poor diet and a lack of physical exercise. In order to eliminate the excess estrogen and balance your hormonal activity, start by restricting your exposure to toxic chemical estrogens by eliminating plastics and avoiding products that contain them. Second, increase your level of physical activity and make sure to eat a healthier diet with plenty of protein and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.
Perform compound lifts
Compound lifts are the lifts that use multiple muscles at once. Any strength training routine should be focus on these exercises because they build quality muscle quickly, improve metabolism and promote bone health. And the most important compound lifts are the deadlift, squat and bench press.
Now, we all know that most women have a mystical fear of approaching the weight room and usually stick to the treadmill or perform endless reps of isolation exercises that target small muscle groups, both of which are not a very good choice when it comes to boosting the metabolism, building lean muscle and shedding fat.
On the contrary, exercises that work the whole body have far superior benefits that include greater overall strength, tighter core and burning tons of fat for many hours after finishing the workout.
So if you want some real results, gather some courage and start lifting. If you don’t know how to begin, don’t be afraid to ask for advice from other people in the gym or a professional.
Besides the three basic lifts, you might want to add presses, rows and back extensions to your routine to increase the variety and build strength in areas that might be neglected in your regular routine. And don’t be afraid to lift heavy – most women never pick up enough weight to get a substantial training effect. Keep in mind that training heavy with the right set of exercises will get you the best aesthetic results.
A good rule of thumb is to pick a weight that will allow you to perform a set of eight reps, but that last rep will be very tough and there is absolutely no way you could complete another one with proper form.
Here is a list of basic exercises you should include in your program for optimal results:
- Barbell squats
- Barbell deadlifts
- Good mornings
- Dumbbell bench presses
- Barbell bench presses
- Military presses
- Lat pull-downs
- Ab roller
- Hanging leg raises
Strength training will increase the number of calories you burn for up to 24 hours after you’ve stopped working out, besides improving your protein synthesis, so give it a decent chance and amazing results will follow.